Pennington | Cherne | Gaarder & Geiger Hagen, PLLC Your Neighborhood Law Firm

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At Pennington, Cherne, Gaarder & Geiger Hagen, PLLC, we lift the legal burden off of your shoulders and try to put you at ease.

Michael S. Gaarder

  • Partner
St. Cloud, MN


Michael Gaarder grew up in a small, Iowa town where he learned to work hard, cultivate meaningful relationships and truly appreciate life by laboring on the family farm and spending time with his grandfather, a World War II veteran and prisoner of war.

While enlisted in the United States Navy, he served as a volunteer assistant on the Naval Legal Service prosecution team and was an integral member of the Staff Judge Advocate's Office in Yokosuka, Japan. Although these opportunities inspired his interest in the legal system, Michael did not pursue his law degree until many careers—vacuum sales, finance, construction, private security—and years later.

Michael believes his varied life experiences help him better listen, relate to others and explain the law in ways people can understand. His clients agree. If you ask them to describe Michael, you’ll hear words, like “honest,” “knowledgeable,” “approachable” and “grounded.”

He serves clients in all of the firm’s practice areas but focuses primarily on family law, personal injury, contract/business disputes, employment law, new business formation, criminal defense and appeals. Michael credits valuable experience as a law clerk under Crow Wing County Judges Fred Casey and Richard Zimmerman for his ability to present solid motion arguments and cases at trial.

From 2013-2017, Michael was nominated, evaluated and selected by his peers to be recognized as a Rising Star attorney by Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine in its Super Lawyers edition. In 2018, Michael was nominated, evaluated and selected by his peers to be recognized as a SUPERLAWYER. Michael was previously named a 2013 Northstar Lawyer by the Minnesota State Bar Association for his significant pro bono work.

Michael was the 2014-2015 President of the Cloud City Achievers BNI Chapter in Saint Cloud. When he’s not working with clients or volunteering in the community, he enjoys family time, non-fiction books and adventures in the outdoors.


Areas of Practice

  • Family Law 55%
  • Civil Litigation 20%
  • Criminal defense 15%
  • Personal Injury 10%

Bar Admissions

  • Minnesota, 2006
  • U.S. District Court District of Minnesota, 2007


  • Hamline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota
    • J.D. - 2006
  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
    • B.A. - 1998
    • Major: International Relations
  • Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, Minnesota
    • 2004
    • Honors: Passed Minnesota POST Test, 2004
    • Major: Law Enforcement

Honors and Awards

  • United States Navy
  • 2013, 2016 Northstar Lawyer by the Minnesota State Bar Association, Announced on May 8th, 2014 in the Star Tribune
  • Super Lawyers edition, one of the top Rising Star Attorneys in the state of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine
  • Super Lawyer Rising Star
  • Super Lawyer

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • Minnesota State Bar Association
  • Stearns/Benton Bar Association
  • Seventh Judicial District Ethics, Committee Member
  • Cloud City Achievers BNI Chapter, Past President, 2014 to 2015
  • Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys
  • American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, Past Member

Past Employment Positions

  • Law Clerk for the Honorable Fred Casey (ret.) and the Honorable Richard Zimmerman in Crow Wing County
  • Stearns County Court Administration, Law Clerk
  • Naval Legal Service Prosecution Team, Admin. Assistant
  • Staff Judge Advocate's Office Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, Staff Member

Pro Bono Activities

  • Minnesota Justice Foundation, Volunteer
American association of Attorneys Premier DUI
lead counsel lc rated
lead counsel lc verified
rated by super lawyers michael scott gaarder
Rated by Super Lawyers Michael Scott Gaarder 5 Years